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The Backyard Herbal Apothecary: Effective Medicinal Remedies Using Commonly Found Herbs & Plants

The Backyard Herbal Apothecary: Effective Medicinal Remedies Using Commonly Found Herbs & Plants

by Devon Young


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Treat Ailments the Natural Way with Plants and Herbs from Your Yard

Your garden or neighborhood could hold all the plants and herbs you need to treat everything from respiratory issues to nerve pain to colic using natural remedies that are just as good for your body as they are for the environment. The Backyard Herbal Apothecary is packed to the brim with information on 50 different plants, recipes for 56 remedies and beautiful photography on every page.

Devon Young, founder of the holistic lifestyle blog Nitty Gritty Life, is a trained herbalist and is well practiced in developing and implementing herbal remedies. As a result, each of Devon’s recipes is a natural and effective tonic for your health concerns. Use cottonwood to make a salve for achy joints, heal minor bumps and bruises with the common yard daisy, infuse some nettle to make an allergy–season combating tincture and so much more, all using safe and locally foraged plants.

Poignant, captivating writing awakens the senses as you learn about the healing quality of each plant and discover how to grow and forage plants and herbs in a safe and sustainable way.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781624147463
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
Publication date: 04/02/2019
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 166,289
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Devon Young is founder of the holistic lifestyle blog Nitty Gritty Life. She has a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine from The American College of Healthcare Sciences and is developing her own herbalism health practice. She lives in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

Read an Excerpt



THE FOREST IS A MOSAIC OF MEDICINE, slowly revealing the botanical bounty hidden in the canopy, tucked away in the understory and peeking out from the shaded meadows. Follow a trail through the woods, and you'll observe a scene not unlike an impressionist painting — shades of green and earthy brown, dappled with delicate whites, pinks and purples all painted with nature's feathery brushstrokes. A calm and patient eye will soon see that this place of quiet and peace is a botanical wonderland of lichens, leaves, needles, berries, bark and roots offering gentle healing and nourishment.

Explore the woods and find medicine around every bend in the trail. Reach into the canopy and gather the citrusy lime green fir tips in spring for a fragrant respiratory ally. Keep your eyes to the ground as you enter the dappled sun of the meadow to discover sweet little self heal, known for its restorative and protective actions on the skin, hidden in the grassy areas between the trees each summer. Dig deep into the earth at the forest's edge come fall to collect the luminous yellow roots of Oregon grape, whose roots are one of nature's most profound medicines for the liver. Dust aside the winter snows to trim a few fragrant cedar boughs for the clean, clear sense that the graceful tree evokes.

Forest medicine awaits discovery.


OTHER COMMON NAMES: elderberry, elderflower

LATIN NAME:Sambucus nigra, S. canadensis


THERAPEUTIC ACTIONS: anti-inflammatory (berries), antioxidant, antiviral, astringent (flowers), diaphoretic (flowers), diuretic (flowers), immune-modulating, nervine, refrigerant

PARTS USED: flower & berry


The storied elder tree has a bounty of beautiful medicine contained at the tips of its boughs. This makes it a fantastic herb for beginners, and it's why I chose this plant for the first medicine that I purposely produced years ago: an elderberry tincture, using fresh berries infused in brandy, studded with a bit of cinnamon and ginger. Sadly, the berries were slightly underripe and the tincture barely palatable. You live, you learn. I have since honed my elder skills, my tincture now rivals a fine sipping liqueur and my arsenal of elder medicine has greatly increased.

Folkloric tradition abounds with elder use. It is a botanical associated with charms, superstition, spells and symbolism. Placed over a threshold, woven into a wreath and sometimes avoided altogether, elder has an air of magic and mysticism. Chiefly linked to protection, superstition sheds much light on elder medicine.

The first elder virtues to arrive are in the form of the flower. Frothy white umbels of tiny star-shaped flowers arrive during the final weeks of spring in northern climates. These delicately fragrant blossoms behold a wealth of medicine. Elderflowers are unmistakably cooling, energetically speaking and they are best applied to hot, overstimulated conditions. A principal use of elderflower is that of a fever reliever. Elderflower is specifically suited to those fevers in which the individual is hot and agitated, radiating heat. It is not the appropriate choice for the individual that has a fever accompanied by chills. A hot, sour stomach and digestive tract often will also benefit from the cooling nature of this herb.

For all its apparent delicacy, elderflower is a robust antiviral herb. Considering both its heat-clearing and antiviral attributes, elderflower is the foremost herb that I reach for when there are complaints of the flu with fever and irritability. It is also called for with other viral complaints such as Epstein-Barr, mononucleosis, chicken pox and shingles. Not only does elderflower address the heat and viral components of the illness, its nervine qualities soothe the overarching sense of agitation and neediness. It is, without a doubt, my favorite herb for dealing with small children: compresses of an elderflower infusion can even be applied to a fussy, teething infant to soothe and calm the child.

As the seasons progress, the almighty elder delivers its second crop of medicine in the waning days of summer and early fall. Those delicate umbels of white foam-like blossoms give way to small berries in shades of blue and black, which have come to be known as one of the most renowned immune supporting botanicals in the herbal medicine world. Elderberry taken throughout the typical "cold and flu season" is a widely accepted preventative protocol, although the evidence of its efficacy is somewhat anecdotal. Elderberry remedies taken at the onset of flu symptoms have drawn quite a bit of scientific attention with several studies indicating that they help to drastically reduce both the duration and severity of symptoms such as fever, cough, running nose and body ache. Traditional herbalists point to the use of elderberry for croupy coughs, coughs that become worse at night and deep lung congestion.

The value of elderberries is not limited to viral issues and complaints of the lungs. Due to its high anthocyanin content, elderberries support cardiovascular health in a variety of ways. A study of 21 healthy volunteers in 2014 examined the blood lipid profiles of each individual after consuming 200 milliliters of elderberry infusion over a course of 30 days. The results indicated scientifically significant reductions in triglycerides, low density lipoproteins (LDL) and overall cholesterol levels.

BEST PREPARATIONS: The flowers and berries of the elder tree lend themselves to a variety of medicinal and culinary recipes. The flowers can be tinctured either fresh or dried in alcohol or glycerin — the latter being particularly child friendly. Dried flowers make lovely teas and infusions, alone or in concert with other herbs. The flowers make a delightful syrup that can be drizzled over cakes and used to sweeten cocktails and mocktails alike. Other culinary applications for the flowers include fritters and candies.

Ripe elderberries can also be tinctured fresh or dried. The berries also make the most delicious syrup that can be prepared on its own or with other immune system supporting herbs. I particularly like using elderberries in an oxymel preparation: a vinegar and honey mixture that not only tastes good but triggers a strong salivary response which promotes the appetite. Elderberry candies, such as lollipops, are a clever way to deliver the herb's benefits to a reluctant child. The berries make lovely wines, cordials, jams and chutneys.

HERBAL SUBSTITUTES: Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus): immune support | hawthorn berry (Crataegus spp.): cardiovascular | catmint (Nepeta cataria): diaphoretic


Both elderflowers and berries are widely regarded as safe. However, if you are pregnant or nursing, or taking prescription medication, you should consult your physician before using this or any other herb.

There is some concern about the use of elderberries for those suffering with autoimmune issues. There seems to be little cohesive scientific or anecdotal evidence to strongly support or negate their use in these persons. I personally take this to mean that some autoimmune sufferers may experience flare-ups while others may not, and that it is largely individual to each person. If you do have an autoimmune disorder, please consult your specialist before using this or any other immune supporting or modulating herb.

Although some older sources indicate some medicinal value, the leaves and bark of elder trees are considered toxic. Avoid unripe berries, as they contain a cyanic glycoside until they are fully mature. Some sources also suggest heating the berries before use to ensure no toxic traces remain.

LOOK-ALIKES: Red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) TOXIC


* TYPE OF PLANT: Deciduous tree or shrub

* HABITAT: Elders are found in a variety of places, but they are most at home in an open wooded setting with sandy loam soils that do not become extremely parched even during extended periods of no rain.

* HEIGHT: Typically 4–12' (1–4 m)

* LEAF: 5 to 7 finely toothed lance-shaped leaves, pinnately arranged. Most often the foliage is green, although domesticated cultivars now appear with dark burgundy foliage.

* STEM: Hollow

* FLOWER: Large umbels of small white flowers approximately 4–12" (10–30 cm) across appearing late spring to early summer

* FRUIT: Blue (with a white bloom or haze) to purple-black depending on species; ripens in late summer through early fall

* GROWING INFORMATION: There are a variety of cultivars that lend themselves particularly well to the home landscape, including a few that are quite showy and beautiful. Elders should be planted in a semi-protected area not prone to high winds, as their brittle stems can snap in heavy gusts. Take care to water your elder frequently during establishment, and water your larger specimens during drought. Do not prune newly planted elders until well established. Some cultivars will require two different species of elder for pollination.

* FORAGE OR GROW? With all the beautiful cultivars available, this is a great medicinal botanical to grow. Elders can be found throughout most temperate regions and are not difficult to identify, making this an easy herb to forage.


FLOWER HARVEST WINDOW: Late spring to early summer

BERRY HARVEST WINDOW: Late summer to early fall When harvesting flowers, keep in mind that by snipping the blossom head you are reducing the fall berry crop. Harvest the flowers modestly. Take care only to harvest ripe berries. Note: The stems of both the flowers and berries may cause digestive upset and should be carefully removed before using.


My experience as a parent is that fevers always spike at bedtime. My kids will always doddle about with a low-grade fever during the day, only to get super toasty at night. My youngest likes to produce fevers that would bust the top right off an old-school thermometer. I generally see a fever as a powerful part of the immune process that should not be suppressed. Low-grade fevers are an important part of the immune response and help the body's natural defense. However, it is important to discuss with your physician when a fever is entering some potentially scary territory. For those fevers that are uncomfortably high, leaving little ones in a perpetually fussy state and parents on edge, this elderflower glycerite gently cools the heat and promotes much needed rest for all.

Elderflowers are naturally cooling with a delicate, sweet, floral flavor. Vegetable glycerin is naturally sweet and viscous, which helps to ensure compliance when administering the glycerite.

YIELD: 4 ounces (about 120 ml)

CHILD'S DOSE, AGES 2–6: 1–2 droppers (1.5–3 ml), every 3 to 4 hours as needed

CHILD'S DOSE, AGES 6–12: 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 ml), every 3 to 4 hours as needed


4 oz (120 ml) organic vegetable glycerin
¼ cup (5 g) fresh elderflower blossoms (flowers removed from stems)


Add the vegetable glycerin and elderflowers to a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Infuse the glycerin with the elderflower for a minimum of 6 weeks. After the infusion is complete, strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a liquid measuring cup. Pour into 1- or 2-ounce (30- or 60-ml) amber glass dropper bottles. Use within 1 year.

NOTE: An alcohol-based elderflower tincture may be more effective for teens and adults. You can make this by infusing 1½ cups (30 g) elderflowers in 2 cups (480 ml) 100 proof spirits for approximately 6 weeks. Strain and bottle. Adult/teen dose: 1–3 droppers full (1.5–4.5 ml)


Oxymel sounds kind of esoteric and potion-y, right? Coming from the Latin words for acid and honey, an oxymel is really just vinegar and honey. This becomes a highly medicinal blend when we add herbs such as elderberries.

And in the case of elderberries, this blend becomes rather tasty too!

This elderberry oxymel is crafted with raw apple cider vinegar and unfiltered raw honey to increase the health benefits of this flavorful concoction. This oxymel can be administered as a medicinal syrup or added to sparkling water or cocktails as a refreshing beverage and is a tangy and sweet way to support the immune system on a daily basis.

YIELD: approximately 1 quart (1 L)

ADULT DOSE: 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml), 3–4 times daily

CHILD'S DOSE, AGES 2–12: ½–2 teaspoons (2.5–10 ml), 2–4 times daily


2 cups (480 ml) raw apple cider vinegar
1 cup (145 g) ripe fresh elderberries
2 cups (480 ml) raw, unfiltered honey


Combine the vinegar and elderberries in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. If using a metal lid, use a slip of parchment paper between the lid and the jar to prevent rust from forming. Infuse the vinegar with the elderberries for a minimum of 2 weeks. After the infusion is complete, strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl or large liquid measuring cup. Add the honey to the infused vinegar, and stir well to combine. Pour into a quart-sized (1-L) bottle and store in the refrigerator. Use within 1 month.

TIP: If the ripeness of your fresh berries is somewhat questionable, or if you are concerned about elderberry safety, gently heat the vinegar/berry infusion to a simmer. Cool completely before straining and combining with honey.


OTHER COMMON NAMES: grand fir, noble fir, balsam fir (all Abies species)

LATIN NAME:Abies sp.


THERAPEUTIC ACTIONS: anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, diuretic, expectorant, hepatic, sedative, vulnerary

PARTS USED: needles


Fir trees are steeped in Native American folklore and tradition. Fir trees are closely associated with protection across many Native cultures. Northwestern tribes, particularly the Salish, used fir for cleansing and spiritual matters. Other North American tribes used firs for weather magic and sleep. Pitch, needles and bark were all part of Native American medicinal practices and tradition.

Firs are known for their aromatic qualities. A hike through an evergreen forest often leaves one feeling restored and invigorated. This sense of rejuvenation is owed to its aromatics. The volatile compounds of the fir needles promote deep, fully actualized breaths and a subtle sedative (think more meditative than sleepy) quality. This "forest therapy" extends beyond the woods and into the apothecary. Fir needles, consumed as a tea or infusion or even applied as an infused oil, speed relief to tight, swollen airways, heavy boggy chests and irritable coughs.

Fir needles have long been used by Native Americans and early settlers to address rheumatic and gout complaints. As a diuretic, it helps to flush excessive fluids built up in the tissues, resulting in relief to swollen and painful joints. Similarly, fir needles help to moderate water retention and puffiness. Fir needles also have an affinity for the liver, offering protective, antioxidant actions.

Fir sap or pitch has been used for impromptu bandages for minor cuts, but is even more effective for irritations. When the sticky resin is applied to bug bites, it helps to calm the redness and itch. Similarly, when gently dabbed on a sliver or an embedded stinger, covered with a small cloth or leaf, and then gently removed, it will often lift the irritant from the skin and provide immediate relief!

BEST PREPARATIONS: Fir needles offer an intriguing balsamic and citrusy note to teas and infusions. Fir-infused oils make a lovely base for massage oils, salves and lotion-making.

Spring fir tips have a delightfully citrusy flavor and texture, making them suitable for food. I have even made a forest-y pesto with fresh needles that I slather on freshly caught trout before grilling. Fall needles are a bit sturdier and require a fine chop, but they impart a rich balsamic note to baked goods and syrups.

HERBAL SUBSTITUTES: Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): respiratory | Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii): respiratory


Fir needles are generally considered safe for internal and external use. If you are pregnant, nursing or taking prescription medication, please consult your physician before using this or any other herb.

LOOK-ALIKES: Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)


* TYPE OF PLANT: Coniferous tree

* HABITAT: Fir trees are typically native to mid- and high elevations, although they are often found near sea level. Firs prefer well-drained soils, and they will not survive in boggy conditions.


Excerpted from "The Backyard Herbal Apothecary"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Devon Young.
Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 6

How to Use This Book 7

Gardening, Suburban Foraging & Wildcrafting 8

Growing Medicinal Herbs 9

Foraging; the Neighborhood and Urban Areas 9

Gathering Wild Medicinals 10

Key Identification Terms 11

Herbal Preparations 12

Healing Forest And Meadow Dwellers 15

Elder 16

Elderflower Glycerite for Feverish Wee Ones 18

Tangy & Sweet Elderberry Oxymel for Immunity Support 21

Fir 22

Forest-Tea Chai for Respiratory Wellness 23

Usnea 24

Usnea Dual Extraction Tincture for Respiratory Complaints 25

Wild Ginger 26

Warming Wild Ginger Rub for Thick & Heavy Chests 28

Comfrey 30

Comfrey Salve for Rough, Hardworking Hands 33

(FALSE) Cedar 34

Evergreen Cedar Cold Process Soap 36

Oregon Grape 38

Oregon Grape Root Tincture for Digestive Wellness & infection Fighting 40

Oregon Grape Ointment for Scaly Patches & Irritated Skin 41

Self Heal 42

Antioxidant Self Heal Day Oil 43

Violet 44

Violet Self-Check Cream for Breast & Lymphatic Health 47

Grassland Sun Worshippers To Rejuvenate The Mind And Body 49

Echinacea 50

Echinacea Immunity Syrup 52

Echinacea Whole Plant Tincture 54

Yarrow 55

Yarrow All-Purpose Wound Salve 57

Bee Balm 58

Bee Balm Herbal Plaster for Boggy Chests & Murky Sinuses 59

Japanese Knotweed 60

Japanese Knotweed Tincture for Lyme Disease Support 63

Mullein 64

Mullein Flower Oil for Achy Ears 67

Mullein Respiratory Smoke 68

Blackberry 70

Calm Your Bowels Blackberry & Chamomile Infusion 71

Dandelion 72

Digestive Bitters with Dandelion, Orange Peel & Ginger 75

Dandelion Root Herbal Coffee with Burdock, Chicory & Spices 76

Burdock 78

Burdock Detoxification Tincture 81

Chickweed 82

Spring Cleaning Tonic 84

Milk Thistle 86

Liver-Protective Milk Thistle Capsules 87

Hawthorn 88

Whole Hawthorn Tincture for Cardiovascular Health 91

Mimosa 92

Mimosa Elixir for Grief & Sadness 93

Motherwort 94

Lionhearted Motherwort Capsules 95

California Poppy 96

California Poppy Tincture for Restlessness 97

Mugwort 98

Mugwort & Lavender Smudge Sticks for Pleasant Dreams 100

Red Clover 102

Nourishing Red Clover Herbal Infusion for Menopausal Support 103

Black Walnut 104

Fungal Fighting Black Walnut Salve 106

Common Yard Daisy 108

Poorman's Bruise Balm with Common Yard Daisy 111

Plantain 112

Plantain Poultice for Pulling Splinters, Stingers & Ocher Offenders 114

Saint John's Wort 116

Saint John's Wort Massage Oil for Nerve Pain 119

Wild Rose 120

Firming Wild Rose Undereye Cream 122

Skin Brightening Rose Hip Serum 123

Marshland And Waterside Wonders For Holistic Health 125

Stinging Nettle 126

Allergy Season Savior Tincture 129

Nettle & Peppermint Nourishing Herbal Infusion for Allergy Season 130

Meadowsweet 132

Meadowsweet Bitters for Heartburn & Reflux 133

Cleavers 134

Cleavers Tincture with Dandelion for Water Retention 135

Black Cohosh 136

Menopause Management Tincture 139

Blue Flag Iris 140

Blue Flag Facial Oil for Acne-Prone Skin 141

Cottonwood 142

Cottonwood Salve for Achy, Angry Joints 145

Jewelweed 146

Jewelweed Succus for Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac Rashes 147

Marshmallow 148

Marshmallow Bum Balm for Bouncing Babies 149

Easy To Grow Kitchen Herbs For Natural Wellness 151

Chamomile 152

Sleepy Chamomile Tea Blend for the Dreamiest Slumber 153

Lavender 154

Restorative Lavender Bath Soak for Tired & Tense Beings 157

Calendula 158

Calendula Pit Paste for the Sweetest Underarms 160

Thyme 162

Thyme-Infused Honey for Sore Throats & Wet Coughs 163

Dill 164

Dill Massage Oil for Colicky Babies 165

Fennel 166

Fennel Gripe Water for Fussy Babies & Tummy-Troubled Toddlers 169

Corn Silk 170

Corn Silk Tincture for Urinary, Prostate and Pelvic Floor Health 171

Raspberry Leaf 172

Raspberry Leaf Tea for Impending Labor 173

Peppermint 174

Jade Goddess Tea 176

Sage 176

Super Duty Sage Tincture for Hot Conditions 179

Rosemary 180

Rosemary Hair Rinse for Shiny, Lustrous Locks 181

Tools Of A Well-Prepared Herbalist 182

For Gardening & Foraging 182

In the Apothecary Kitchen 182

Herbal Energetics Glossary 183

References 184

Books 186

Acknowledgments 187

About the Author 188

Index 189

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